Today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be answering the question, "Does stress make your menopause symptoms worse?".
Menopause and stress: what’s the connection?
So, why does stress make menopause symptoms worse? Unfortunately, hormones fluctuate, especially as we are approaching the menopause in peri-menopause, and this can alter the way that we physically and emotionally respond to stress.
And it can very quickly become a vicious cycle. The hormonal changes in our body create stress; that makes us more vulnerable to stress; and stress will then affect our menopause symptoms. And it can literally just keep going on and on right through the menopause!
So, I'm going to talk a little bit about how stress affects our menopause symptoms and then include some tips on how you can try and sort this before it gets too severe.
How does stress make menopause symptoms worse?
1. Mood swings
First of all, it affects our mood. Stress is an external situation, if you like. There is likely something out there that is stressing us and we call this a stressor. So, there's very much a real situation, or even a real person, or real things going on in our lives that make us feel the stress.
If we're under a lot of stress, that nearly always affects our mood. It can trigger mood swings because we'll be worrying about things a lot more, or it can actually cause low mood because we may feel that we're unable to cope or resolve the situation we're in.
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2. Hot flushes
We know, too, that stress can trigger hot flushes. Stress will put pressure on our nervous system. And, if our nervous system gets too overwhelmed, it gets very jumpy. And it will release chemicals such as adrenaline or histamine, and these can trigger the hot flushes or the night sweats.
3. Weight gain
Weight gain can be a big problem as well, and we know in the menopause that this is something that happens to a lot of women anyway. If you are extra stressed, that can put more pressure on your weight. What can happen here is, because we feel low, because maybe we feel helpless, because we feel miserable, we tend to reach for the sweet things just to cheer us up.
The other thing that can happen here is that stress eats up our magnesium levels. And low magnesium can also trigger food cravings. So, again, we can end up with a double whammy here in a situation where our weight is being affected both by how we're feeling and the fact that we're eating more, and maybe comfort eating.
We might feel demotivated. We don't really want to exercise when we're miserable. Very often, we've got fatigue as well, and the last thing we want to do is go and exercise. And that can also contribute to your weight gain.
4. Sleep problems
Stress creates sleep problems. The menopause itself can affect sleep. Low oestrogen can affect our ability to get to sleep quickly and also to stay asleep so that we can get a good night's rest. So, if you are lying there, if you're stressed, if you're anxious, then very often at night when you get to bed, you will start worrying about everything.
All these thoughts will be going on in your head. That will stop you getting to sleep, and a lot of women find that, if they're in this stressful situation, they tend to wake up a lot earlier as well. And, very often, the minute you come to, you're right in the midst of all those stress problems as well. So, this can be a big factor.
If you are not sleeping well, then that can make your resilience to the daily menopause symptoms worse as well. What can happen, too, is low mood and libido can be a particular problem. We know that, if you've got low mood, if you've got anxiety, if you're just feeling really miserable, the last thing you want to be doing is having sex or even just to be communicating with your partner.
5. Digestive troubles
The other thing that can happen here is that stress can affect your digestion. There's a direct and very quick link between stress situations and how your digestive system works. If you're stressed and anxious, your digestive system very often ends up being switched on and off right through the day.
That will contribute to things like indigestion. It can give you bloating, it can give you constipation, and it can make you feel really, really uncomfortable.
How to relieve stress during menopause
So, how can you sort the stress out? It can be very difficult when we're in the midst of all this angst, trying to sort ourselves out. Very often, when we're having to deal with everything else in our daily lives, it can be very hard. But there are a number of little things that you can start to incorporate that, hopefully, will make you feel better.
The first one is really quite simple: learn to do deep breathing. This is something that can work very quickly, especially if you find your thoughts are starting to run away or if you're getting a little bit of panic or feeling anxious.
It can help to just take three or four really slow, long, deep breaths. This is a great one to practice every single day, because it will come naturally once you're used to practicing the deep breathing. I have a little sticker on my computer that just says, "Breathe" on it.
So that's a reminder for me to practice my deep breathing on a daily basis, too.
Another really good thing is mindfulness, or meditation, or even shutting yourself away for half an hour listening to some really good, relaxing music. The problem here is time, and I know a lot of you out there will be going, "Where do I find that extra half hour?".
But, honestly, this is so important. That extra half hour a day taking care of your emotions and your mental stability can be worth its weight in gold in helping you to cope with the menopause. So, make this one a priority. You know, you're worth it so don't skimp on this one. Make the time whenever you can.
Talk about it or write it down
Talk to friends, especially if you know other women who are going through the menopause. Very often, they will be experiencing the same thing as you and having somebody that can understand and be empathetic with you can make a huge amount of difference.
Talk to your family as well because, very often, once they know what's going on, they'll be more likely to support you rather than getting annoyed because you're having mood swings or you just don't want to communicate with them.
If you find talking really difficult, then write it down. Have a little daily diary and just write down how you're feeling. And you may find over the weeks that your stress and anxiety starts to lift, purely because you're voicing, or writing, how you're feeling deep down.
Exercise if you can. I know this is difficult and, if you're feeling down, if you're feeling really stressed, the last thing you want to do is go out and exercise. But it's certainly going to help with the weight control and we know that exercise releases endorphins.
These are your feel-good hormones and these are going to lift you up naturally. Even if you can only get out for 10 to 15 minutes, maybe during your lunch hour, have a brisk walk. That can be enough just to raise your mood up and to help you cope with what's going on for the rest of the day.
Have ‘me’ time
Have some 'me' time in pampering yourself. So, don't just make time to do the meditation or the mindfulness, but look after yourself. Take a relaxing bath or read your favourite book. Take care of yourself.
We should be our own number one priority during the menopause, and giving yourself a little bit of attention can make you feel better. It can raise your confidence and, when you feel more confident, you're more able to cope with all the stress that's going on in your life. So, this is a lovely one that can bring lots of benefits.
Try and get a good night's sleep. I know this is a difficult one too. We have a nice sleep remedy called Dormeasan that can help. And, if you find that it's your thoughts that are running away with themselves as you're trying to get to sleep, you can go for one of the flower essences.
We have a lovely one called Night Essence. You can just put a few drops straight onto your tongue just before you jump into bed. If you find you're waking up a couple of times during the night, you can take a little bit more just to help your mind to calm itself so that you can get back to sleep.
Limit your caffeine, especially at night, because that will interfere with your sleep. Caffeine stimulates your nervous system and, if you're nervous system is already under pressure because you're stressed, then drinking lots of coffee is going to have a serious, negative effect.
The same goes for alcohol, fizzy drinks, and sugary drinks. It really is important to avoid these and drink loads of water if you're stressed because all these changes going on can dehydrate you, too.
For general relief of stress, we've got another lovely remedy called Stress Relief Daytime which tends to work quite quickly. And that can help to support you while you go through this particular phase.
My Top Tip:
Just mix 10-20 drops with a little water, once or twice daily, to help relax your nervous system and reduce mild stress symptoms.
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So, I hope this has been of help. It's quite a complex one because there's so many things going on in our lives on a daily basis. I know all these techniques and I can still find myself stressed at the drop of a hat, so I know how difficult this can be.
But, for those of you out there who have dealt with your stress, if you have any tips at all on how you've coped or the things that you've done to make your life easier, then please share them with us. We'd love to hear all about it.